Zimbabwe plans to introduce levies on occupied farms to raise money for seized farm compensation. This plan will however, be potentially resisted as the new occupants say they do not have the cash to finance the programme. Independent evaluators (Valcon) estimate Zimbabwe needs to pay farmers $8.6 Billion for immovable assets and $2.8 billion for land. The government of Zimbabwe launched a “fast-track land reform programme” in 2000 and around 5,000 pre-dominantly white farmers were forcibly evicted from their farms. The government had previously indicated that it was not willing to compensate farmers but amid growing international pressure from financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, Harare has run out of options.
The new occupants of Zimbabwean farms will have to foot the bill of compensation of evicted farmers. This plan comes amid growing economic instability in Zimbabwe which has been worsened by an El Nino induced drought. The economy is projected to only grow by a paltry 2.7%. Zimbabwe is under ever growing pressure to secure funding from the IMF and the World Bank but not until it has redressed its past mistakes. According to The African Report, land seizures have led to a steep fall in commercial agriculture output with yields for maize having fallen from 8 tonnes per hectare to just 0.5 tonnes. Mugabe is said to have acknowledged the skills of evicted white farmers who he said helped Zambia produce excess maize. Resettled farmers are obviously not earning nearly enough from their operations to fund the plan proposed by Chinamasa, the Zimbabwean Minister of Finance.
Victor Matemadanda, secretary of Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veteran Association is reported by Reuters to have said, “Are farmers able to pay? I will say no. Is the land being productive? I will say no again.”
Zimbabwean resettled farmers are predominantly war veterans as they were the wrights of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme. They marched on farms and evicted the owners violently, without compensation. Human Rights Watch reports that the violent groups “killed white farm owners in the course of occupying commercial farms”. This contributed to the Zimbabwean government’s notoriety the world over.
The new farmers are however not legal owners of the land as it belongs to the state and all they have are 99 year leases which are still in the pipeline. Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya told Reuters that the government would give farmers 99 year leases on their land. They have had problems getting funding from banks as they do not have collateral and a lack of funds compounded by a lack of skills culminate in annually recurring disastrous hunger. After years of supporting farmers and seemingly opposing compensation, the state has now decided to shift gears leaving the new farmers in the cold. This tone is expected to change towards the 2018 elections as the ruling party’s structures are based on the war veteran community. Zimbabwe has been singing anti-West rhetoric and lambasting the IMF and World Bank at every turn and the sudden of change tune is quite telling. The economy needs serious reforms. It would seem the nationalist fantastical ideology that ran behind the land grabs has fallen prey to the capitalist ideas of the West and the war veterans who rode on the wave of nationalism are set to drown.
Hendrik Oliver, Chief Executive of Commercial Farmers Union is pessimistic about the government plans to compensate evicted farmers. He feels the government has done nothing for the past 16 years and cannot be taken at its word on that account.
“It’s a huge step forward, lets acknowledge that in the past the government has said it won’t pay compensation but if you are talking about new farmers paying a levy, that’s not gonna work, that’s not gonna pay our compensation,” Oliver said to Reuters.
Whether Oliver’s assertion will prove to be true remains to be seen. The black resettled farmers may resist for lack of means or the strong nationalist conviction that the land is theirs and they cannot be made to pay for what belongs to them. The plan of the Zimbabwean treasury has been to pay for improvements on the land and not the land itself but even this amount is no less than $8.6 billion and coupled with interest it might be double the amount.
Image Credit: The Zimbabwe Situation